Published: Feb 8, 2019
If you're building a new custom PC with a motherboard that doesn't have onboard wireless (and you actually want WiFi, keeping in mind it's not the best connection for online gaming), or if you wish to upgrade your existing desktop to have WiFi and you're comfortable getting inside of that PC to install an expansion card (it's really easy assuming your computer has the room for another PCI/PCIe card) - buying a decent internal wireless network card is a good way to go.
You also have the option to get a good USB WiFi adapter for online gaming, but overall a network card is going to be the most reliable, long-lasting and generally fastest way to add wireless/WiFi to your custom gaming PC (or prebuilt desktop).
As with making any sort of purchase in the tech sphere, it can be quite confusing to decide between the right model for your budget, and networking products actually crank up the confusion another gear and are notoriously difficult accessories to buy.
We've done the indepth painstaking research for you and in this guide we'll break down everything you need to know about choosing the best PCIe WiFi card for your budget without pulling your hair out over confusing wireless specs and features and model differences (of which there are many).
After considering pretty much every type of internal wireless network card on the market in our typical in-depth, obsessive fashion, we've narrowed things down to the top value for money, reliable, overall best PCIe WiFi cards for the money as a PC gamer, that we can comfortably recommend to include in your epic new gaming PC build. We've included a network card FAQ at the bottom too to cover a few common questions about choosing and installing the right PCI wireless adapter.
Get Confused About a Certain Spec?
Hover over the below for an overview of what that feature is, or see our more comprehensive Wireless Adapter Buyer's Guide which covers WiFi features in more detail.
Swipe to Scroll the Table:
Comparing the Best PCIe WiFi Cards for the Money (2019)
|Price Range: *||Budget (Under $50)||High-End (Under $100)||Extreme (Over $100)|
|Model:||Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I||TP-Link Archer T9E AC1900||Asus PCE-AC88 AC3100|
||867Mbps + 300Mbps||1300Mbps + 600Mbps||2167Mbps + 1000Mbps|
|Connection:||PCI Express||PCI Express||PCI Express|
|Antennas:||1x External||3x External||4x External|
|OS Support:||Windows 7, 8, 10, Linux||Windows XP, 7, 8, 10||Windows 7, 10|
* Price range is based on the US market. Prices for Canada, UK and Australia will obviously differ a little
The Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I Rev 4, despite the ghastly-generic nameless form of a name, is a great choice for most PC gamers wanting a fast, solid connection and is our overall top value pick if you want the best budget PCIe WiFi network card.
Despite being a seemingly cheap solution, at least compared to other network cards, it's got solid range and reliability so no need to worry if your router is a fair distance away (within reason) and/or you have walls or floors in-between your router and desktop.
A surprising touch for the price is Bluetooth functionality (Bluetooth 4.2 if wondering) which uses the same antenna as the WiFi. It's not the highest quality Bluetooth connection nor the most reliable for those serious about Bluetooth capabilities for whatever reason, but we really can't complain for the price to have this feature. Also, since this Gigabyte adapter is actually based on an Intel wireless card, it can support Linux operating systems too which is handy for the tech-elite among us.
There have been different revisions to the Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I wireless adapter, with the latest being 4.2 and what you should buy. The 4.2 edition includes a female USB port in addition to the USB2 header connection for Bluetooth, so if your motherboard doesn't have a spare USB 2.0 header for this you can just use a male to male USB cable instead.
Overall, it's tough to find a better budget wireless network card for a gaming PC build in 2019, and it's most definitely good enough for a large percentage of online gamers. You'd only need to step things up to a higher-priced card if you need even faster speeds than the not-too-shabby 867 Mbps limit of this one, or if you want even better range and signal strength with a multiple external antenna setup.
TP-Link networking products are generally solid in terms of value and reliability, and the Archer T9E is no exception and clearly one of the best AC1900 wireless adapters on the market right now.
AC1900 means you can get up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 Ghz band, which not everyone's router will be capable of, but if you have an AC1900 router then this type of wireless card is what you need.
The Archer T9E also comes with Beamforming technology which focuses the WiFi signal to your devices in use, as opposed to all over the place like regular devices without this handy feature. This card is more than enough wireless firepower for the majority of gamers, and the 3 external antenna setup provides excellent range and signal strength even for large houses. You should only consider spending more on a PCI Express WiFi adapter if you're one of the lucky few who can actually take advantage of faster speeds than AC1900.
If you have a need for extreme internet speeds and have the router and internet connection to actually achieve your desired godlike level of interwebz access, you want a top notch WiFi card that won't get in your way and that won't limit both the speed and signal strength you get from your (hopefully excellent) router.
Therefore, you'll need to invest in a top-notch quality, highly reliable, and high-speed card like the Asus PCE-AC88 with AC3100 speeds. That means it can reach data transfers of up to a very nice 2167 Mbps on the 5GHz band and 1000Mbps on the 2.4GHz frequency.
Not worth buying for the majority of gamers with standard internet connections, but if you're after the cream of the crop or you want to invest in a card that will stand the test of time and that you can keep if you ever upgrade your internet to an extreme speed connection, the Asus PCE-AC88 is our top pick of all the best PCIe WiFi network cards on the market in 2019. Overkill for most; perfect for others, assuming the disadvantages listed below do not bother you.
Keep in mind the Asus PC3-AC88 does not have Bluetooth, which is a bummer for the high price, so if you need that feature you'll have to get a separate Bluetooth adapter. Also, there are only official drivers for Windows 7 and Windows 10, so bad luck if you're still using Windows 8, 8.1 or good-old XP.
Are PCIe Wireless Network Cards Better Than USB WiFi Adapters for Gaming?
Generally, yes. There are also some good USB WiFi adapters if you don't have the room for a PCIe or PCI network card in your PC (or if you're a laptop gamer), which is a more convenient way of adding WiFi to a prebuilt PC without having to go in and install an expansion card (even though it's dead easy to do if you've built the PC yourself).
But in terms of the most reliable, long-lasting, high-speed and long-range way to get wireless for your gaming build, assuming you don't have WiFI built-in to your motherboard, a good PCI Express WiFi card is going to be the best long-term investment in most cases (pun intended).
PCIe vs PCI Network Cards
PCI Express (PCIe) is the more recent connection format, and modern wireless cards are all going to be of this type. But if you're upgrading an older motherboard, you may only have a spare PCI slot on your motherboard, and not a spare PCIe slot. In this case you would need to purchase a PCI wireless card, as PCIe cards won't fit in a PCI slot.
Understanding PCIe x1 vs PCIe x16 Slots
There are two types of PCI Express slots. PCIe x1 slots are the small, short PCIe slots, and the size that PCIe network cards come in. PCIe x16 slots are the long PCIe slots used for a graphics card. But don't worry if you only have a long x16 slot available in your particular PC build, as a short PCIe x1 network card will fit just fine in a long x16 slot.
What Speed WiFi Card Should I Buy?
Check the speed of your router, and try to match that or better. For example, if your router is an AC1900 model, try and get an AC1900 wireless card so that your card won't restrict your bandwidth AKA speed. Also, don't worry if you get a wireless card with a faster speed than your router supports, as then your system is future-proofed and you may not need to upgrade your adapter if you end up upgrading your router (so long as it's still an 802.11ac router).
-Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I (rev. 4.2) Wireless Network Card Official Specifications
-TP-Link Archer T9EAC1900 Wireless Dual Band PCI Express Adapter Official Specifications
-ASUS PCE-AC88 Dual-band AC3100 4x4 Wi-Fi PCI Express Adapter Specifications
-PCI Express (Wikipedia)
-Conventional PCI (Wikipedia)
Got a question or want to share your thoughts on the above guide? We're listening and you can reach us on the platforms below or email us direct and we'll gladly help you out where possible if time permits. If you need more in-depth help with tweaking a build or planning one from scratch for your specific budget/theme/performance aims/etc - see our Get a Done-for-You Parts-List service where for a small tip we can thoroughly research and plan the very best build for your exact wants and needs. Also, constructive criticism on any aspect of the site is always welcome and appreciated as it helps us continue crafting BGC into the best noob-friendly DIY resource that it can be. Thanks guys.
Former hobbyist game programmer turned tech fanatic, Julz is the founder and lead author at BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming since starting the site in his spare time over a decade ago as an almost-laughably basic, unimpressive little site with a simple aim to try and make building a PC more accessible to the average gamer since most resources were far from beginner-friendly.
Over countless reiterations to the quality and depth of the site's content and research process over the years, it's steadily grown into the fairly expansive, comprehensive and constantly-updated PC building resource that it is today, now reaching and helping thousands of gamers and power users each and every month to more effectively plan optimal setups for their exact needs. His fav PC games of all time are HL1, WC3 and SWKOTOR (OOT, Perfect Dark, DKC2 & MGS2 for consoles) and he promises never to speak in third-person again. You can learn more about the BGC mission here.